Lifeis+ 2019, day 21.
I hadn’t originally planned this, but my girlfriend received some bad news, and her reaction to it made me realize something about myself that brought me closer to understanding forgiveness and everything it entails. So I wrote this.
I hope you enjoy. ❤
It’s hard being in a relationship with someone whose family hates you so much they go out of their way to span lies and mistruth all over your small city just to get back at you for something. Believe me, I’ve had my share of nights spent sitting at my desk with flushed cheeks, wanting to give a piece of my mind. I’ve written villains in short stories I’ll likely never publish with such thinly veiled comparisons I may as well have delivered their names and actions to the reader on a platter. I’ve been so angry I’ve just wanted to smash something, scream at someone, and rip my own hair out over the things that have been said. Then out of nowhere, it died down. I stopped hearing about all of the lies and mistruths being spread, and something funny happened.
I didn’t release that anger, no, that isn’t how this story goes. Not yet.
Just the other day, my girlfriend received another such message. This time accusing her of spreading lies and rumors about the family around town, which, I have to say on her behalf, she didn’t do.
That girl doesn’t have a sinister bone in her body, she is much more graceful and kind than I am.
Something I have always wondered about the bible is how exactly we are supposed to forgive those who’ve hurt us so badly we can never be the same again? I’ve experienced my own share of pains like this. Those everlasting wounds that carve up your heart and can’t seem to be healed. They scar so quickly, and that wound becomes something more than just a simple wound.
It becomes baggage.
Matthew 18:21-22 ESV
21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
The weight of those wounds comes to us like a debt to be repaid. We beg for answers and understanding from someone who has no interest in giving it to us. We long for closure to those wounds, for an answer. For our debt to them to be repaid. I’ve been wondering lately, what the use of that baggage is to us?
If we were meant to carry our wounds like oozing sores across to every new trading post, we would not be taken well until we cured our disease. I realized the other day how afraid of germs I have become, for no discernable reason. I met someone who was HIV positive recently, and upon discovering that I saw an emergence of a hidden prejudice that I have. Every time I had to touch this person, I felt dirty. Worried that because of the numerous open wounds on my fingertips, I had been doomed to the same disease. Of course, this is a silly sentiment. I was not rubbing my open wounds across their tongue or tasting wine from their lips. I greeted them politely and quietly, but that fear still came. I was afraid to touch them.
It made me think about this message, this idea that our unclosed anger leaves these same kinds of sickness within us. I carry a disease that others are afraid of receiving. I am a man full of anger and sorrow and I do my best to patch it up, but when others see it, they grow afraid to simply shake my hand.
Those scars become weight. The answers I don’t have for things I’ve asked weigh down my heart and poison my flesh in a way I can’t describe. Others then, are afraid to be near me for fear that I lash out with a coughing storm of anger and condemnation.
Matthew 18:23-24 ESV
23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.
My weight becomes a debt that I believe is owed to me. That I deserve something to compensate for the hurt that others cause. After all, their hurt is the reason I harbor all of this anger. Why shouldn’t they apologize to me for what they did? “Is it that they don’t understand the gravity of the pain they caused me?” I think to myself. In some cases, I’ve sought to explain to them the depth of pain they put me through and in these moments, not one time have I gotten a justifiable answer. This comes to me in two parts. Because first, they believe they did nothing wrong. The hurt they caused wasn’t intentionally. It was something that they felt they must do. They wished well. Second, No answer would justify it. Leaving me for no reason, getting fired for no reason, abandoning contact with me and spreading rumors for no reason. All of these end without an ending. A story that is left untold, and I always fall into the same trap. Wondering what I could have done differently to save myself from the weight of anger and the debt I am owed.
Matthew 18:25-27 ESV
25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.
So I had fallen into the habit of harboring that debt, enraged that I held it still. They owed me an apology for what they had done, and I would refuse it. For some I still would refuse their apology if it was offered, even to this day. I had been hurt too badly to accept it and live through it, I told myself.
Matthew 18:28-31 ESV
28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii,[d] and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place.
I found that in these moments of extreme anger, I would brandish it like a hot iron and exact revenge on others. Unhappy customers at work brought me sinister excitement, because I could take that anger towards one and project it onto another. I could expel my fury in a way I believed was safe.
But brandishing a hot iron will serve you only one purpose… to burn yourself.
That anger I sent towards innocent people who had frustrated me turned back towards me, my debts going unpaid and more debts arising as I found myself in trouble at work for my temper. Each time I lashed out I found myself confronted with a new problem. I became the Unmerciful Servant. Expecting my debts to be paid. Expecting an apology when I was unwilling to offer forgiveness in exchange.
Matthew 18:32-33 ESV
32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’
I found that I refused to forgive them for hurting me, and demanded their forgiveness in exchange. The madness of the revelation something only God could provide. When I understood that there were many I had kept tally of this way, I couldn’t bear the realization. It made me more angry, but this time, I focused that anger in a much more productive way.
I used it as energy to forgive.
It is easy to gather debt to others, it is easy to hold our anger and selfish desires above the heads of others, especially those we rarely see. But I had to ask myself if all of the effort to keep the iron hot was worth it. I spent so long beside the fire my wounds had burned and peeled, growing larger and more infected. Which only brought about more anger within me. I had become a monster of my own creation, and blamed it on those who’ve hurt me.
Is this what we are called to do as children of God? I had to choke down the difficult answer the other day, fighting to find something that could expunge me of my feelings.
My Sunflower’s family had hurt me so badly. They had said such terrible things, they had done such terrible things. How could God not expect me to be filled with hatred towards them? How could He not understand that I expected apologies from all of them. They were in the wrong. They were the evil ones, not me.
Matthew 7:3 ESV
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
All sin is sin. There is no way around it. There is no way to justify it. All of us have fallen short of the glory of God, and the truth of it is that yes, He knows we will be furious at others. He knows that we will not forgive when we should forgive, and He told us what to do. He told us what to expect.
Matthew 18:34-35 ESV
34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
It is not our job to be debt collectors. It is not our duty to account for every lash upon our spine. It is our calling instead, to forgive. Especially those whose labor is to not forgive us. I am still angry at them, I am still angry at many.
But I understand now, that those scars on my heart are not scars I should have harbored. I should not have been so close to the fire. I only burned myself by refusing to forgive them for all they had done.
But that is not my job. Christ called me to be a better man, and I am heeding that call to the best of my ability.
Which often means doing difficult things, like forgiving an abusive family for hurting the woman I love. Like forgiving old friends who severed ties with me and gave me no reason. Like forgiving all of those who have come to hate me over the years for being such a hateful, vengeful man and pretending that I am not.
My duty is to forgive and show them the love that Christ showed me.
Because He forgave me, too.
I’ve been working a lot harder as of late to be a better man, and I am thankful that I am surrounded by people every day who give me reason to do so. Either because I want to be more like Jesus, and their inspiration shows me the way, or because I want to be better than what they have done.
I am blessed in my Sunflower because I can see both, she has these moments where things are blinding and powerful, that the Lord is speaking to me through her. I can also see the wrongs that have been done to her, and I know how hard it is to forgive them of what they’ve done, but it is something I must do if I want to sit well within my own soul. Harboring all of this rage does no one any good.
Especially the one carrying the load.
If someone has wronged you, forgive them. Even if you don’t think you owe it to them, you do. Because you have wronged others in your time, too.
This was a bonus piece I had written, I’ve posted more this week as well that I’d love for you to read and share your opinion on. This month has been frantic and chaotic and I’ve struggled to stay on top of all the writing I’ve promised myself I’d complete, and it’s been difficult…
Just the way I like it.
I can promise you this much, anything that isn’t published from this calendar will be published by the 31st, if you’re interested in something in particular.
Categories: Umbral Dawning